County Legislature committee recommends approval of community college funding

(Photo via Tompkins Cortland Community College).

Tompkins Cortland Community College officials presented a budgetary request of $88,920 for operating expenses and $95,000 for capital improvements and deferred maintenance Tuesday.

It was a request that was seen as “late in the game,” but ultimately unanimously recommended by legislators.

Both requests were unanimously recommended by the Finance and Administration Committee. Cortland County Legislature will now vote on budget amendments when they vote for the 2023 county budget later this month.

The operating funding would be a three-year investment that would bring in new software, as well as network management services. Bill Talbot, the college’s vice president of Finance and Administration, said the funding request for operating expenses should not be added to base aid yearly provided to the college.

“The college is sensitive to the financial constraints of Cortland and seeks short-term assistance while rebuilding its enrollments to a level that is self-sustaining,” he said in a document prepared for the legislature. “If added to base aid it cannot be reduced. As ‘bridge’ funding, it will expire and can be reassessed to take into consideration our success, the economy, and Cortland’s financial position.”

In terms of capital funding, the college is asking for funds for 2023. Talbot said the capital funding would be beneficial given that there have been no capital improvements to the campus in more than a decade.

“The college has an excess of $40 million in needed deferred maintenance and other capital projects requiring attention, from boilers to paving to turf fields to classroom upgrades,” Talbot said. “The deferred maintenance advisory committee, made of two legislators from each county, discusses needs, priorities, possible funding sources and expenditures.”

The utility of the funds so far is undeclared until the advisory committee has a chance to assess its uses, unless an emergency replacement is required, Talbot said.

“This along with the other sources will increase the deferred maintenance reserve to $650,000, with $50K already used to rebuild the pool dehumidifier,” he added.

Capital funds at the state level would require both Cortland and Tompkins counties to provide their part of the match. In Cortland’s case, that is $95,000. Tompkins County’s Legislature has already approved their portion.

County Administrator Rob Corpora said the county did have the funds to fulfill the college’s request.

“We do have the money from an unappropriated fund balance,” he said, noting that the college receives $1.8 million in base aid from the county every year.

Tompkins Cortland Community College president Amy Kremenek told legislators Thursday that the college’s outlook is on the rise.

“We have been doing a great deal of work around the county,” she said, noting that during the pandemic the college lost about a third of its enrollment base. “We are one of four community colleges where our enrollment is up in the fall of 2022.”

Kremenek said there has been an increase of 18 percent in first-time students. 

“That is very different from our peers around the state,” she said.

Kremenek also touted the college’s micro-credential program as having a good future ahead. The program provides tools for the workforce in sectors like healthcare and tech. She added she anticipates the proposed Micron semiconductor manufacturing plant in Onondaga County will bring forth great demand for higher skilled jobs.

“This college is also involved in a micro-credential around semiconductor manufacturing,” she said. “We believe there will be a significant need. Great deal of good work is happening at the college.”

Legislator Richard Stock (D-LD-10) commended the work being done at the college.

“It is going to help all of us in the future,” Stock said.